Before we knew it, December was upon us and all the games had arrived in stores in time for everyone to buy them as presents. We've got the reveal of our Game of the Year coming after Christmas, but for 24 days starting December 1 we'll bring you a new contender for the title. Please note that these games are in no particular order, but feel free to speculate on where they might appear in our final list.
Neon Kelly, Video Production Editor
"A tragic f*ck-up making one last desperate play - a bid for revenge rather than redemption, under suicidal circumstances." That's how I recently described Max in his third outing, and sod it, I think it's accurate enough that I can get away with using that text again. I know a few Payne Purists objected to Rockstar's design choices – the daylight, the move away from New York, and the shaving of Max's bonce – but for me, the end more than justified the means... which is arguably more than can be said for Max's own actions in-game.
The old Max Paynes were dark, but despite their tragic overtones, they were rooted in a kind of comic-book fantasy. Max 3 is hardly a realistic story, but there's something about the tone which makes it hard to shy away from the ugliness of its violence and general pessimism – even as its providing what is, for me, the most satisfying shooter of the year. These conflicting feelings reach a head (appropriately enough) when you you shoot someone in the face, the camera rushing to show you the exit wound in horrible slow-mo detail, a crimson flower budding from the back of their skull. You feel elated and disgusted at the same time.
Also, that bit when you're in the airport and Tears kicks in... it's brilliant. One of my favourite set-pieces of the year, that.
Tom Orry, Editor
I had a great time playing Max Payne 3. I'm not sure what the game's haters wanted from Rockstar, but for me the game is the best pure action game of 2012. I love how simple things are (shoot guys in the head), but also how workmanlike Max is. He goes through it over the course of the game, but always does the job he's been paid to do. He's old, mostly drunk, and full of bullet holes, but this man can sure slow-mo dive while headshotting a group of goons. Perhaps I have simple tastes, but I don't understand the hard time Max Payne 3 got from certain quarters.
Martin Gaston, Reviews Editor
For all its faults, Max Payne 3 sure is stylish. An opening moment where Max slo-mo jumps off a balcony in a nightclub is both simplistic and exhilarating - rare proof that you can do cinematic action in a video game without blowing up a major landmark. But I can't help but feel like Max Payne was the wrong choice for Max Payne 3, and that Rockstar would have been better off creating its own new character and series: the clear intentions to reinvent the hero were always muddied after the inevitable fan backlash, and forcing PC users to wait feels like a real insult for a series that is clearly at its best when you're popping off headshots with a mouse. This game is proof, though, that Rockstar knows how to do a good action sequence - let's hope a few of them make their way into GTA V, eh?
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor
Martin will likely criticise Max Payne 3 for relying far too much on Rockstar flair and vanity, but surely that's what makes it so appealing?
Stylish cinematography, an atmospheric soundtrack and a well-told narrative carved Max Payne 3 a niche within a crammed genre, but it was the superbly choreographed set-pieces that most will remember. Diving through a nightclub window, hanging off a helicopter's landing strut, and charging through an airport terminal were some of my highlights, but there are far too many other great moments in the game to mention them all here.
Lower-than-expected sales could drive Max into an early retirement, of course, but if this is to be the action hero's final moments, then he's certainly gone out with a bang - and a barrage of cracks from duel M972s.
Matthew Nellis, Video Producer
Hey Rockstar, I think you got a bit of gameplay in your cutscene.
If you're planning on playing Max Payne 3 then I hope you like cinematics because there are a ton in this game. Sometimes you think you're in a cinematic and then you die because you were actually in control and were supposed to move. Other times you just want to walk through a door (a very simple action in most games) and the bloody thing takes control away from you.
These were the frustrating elements of Max Payne 3. Aside from that I had a ton of fun with the core gunplay. At first I found myself playing it like a cover shooter and was having an incredibly hard time. Then I started to realise the game rewards you for aggressive, ballsy moves like in the original PC games. Often the best way out of a situation is to just activate bullet time and go in guns blazing. As always it looks cool as hell and when you pull it off, executing six mobsters in one fell swoop, making you feel like the ultimate action hero.